Thursday, September 10, 2009

Reflection: A Response to Dr. Laura

My sister-in-law sent me a book by Laura Schlessinger, and I read the whole durn thing. Now I’ll concede Dr. Laura a few points: Yes, there are things one shouldn’t put up with from another human being; yes, there are wrong reasons to ’put up with’ things. And yes, one’s primary attachment should be to one’s babies. That said, I’ll spend the rest of this post arguing with Dr. Laura. She argues against “stupid attachment” -- attachment to flawed human beings who aren’t your little kids -- and then describes scenarios that don’t involve attachment at all. I remember an acquaintance, some years back, saying you were not attached to something if you were willing trade it for something else of greater or equal value. Boy, do I stand with him on that one! The I want somebody, I need somebody mentality is an example of dependency; it has nothing, but nothing, to do with attachment.

Now I wonder what Dr.Laura would say about the prairie voles. Prairie voles have been in the news much more often than the average rodent. It’s partly because of them that scientists know that monogamy is a drive, supported by its own neurochemical systems. There's a volume of research that goes back years: scientists wondered why this one species of vole was monogamous and nurtured its young for a long time, when other closely related species weren’t (and didn’t). What was different about this vole’s neurochemical systems -- and were some of those same systems at work in human beings ?

The short answer is yes. Those same systems are in place in people, though they don’t function identically. One of my all-time favorite movies is A Beautiful Mind. The woman in that story… well, there are different types of strength, but hers is the type of strength I can admire. Of course a Dr. Laura could argue that life isn’t the silver screen... and that an over attached person has only themselves to blame when their attachments cause pain. That’s a valid argument. But it’s not valid to equate over-attachment with dependency, or to suggest it’s an affliction of women who lack their own strength, their own self-worth, or their own voice. I think that often -- I’m not going to suggest always -- it's the people who don’t have strong attachment/monogamy drives themselves who most self-assuredly and vocally mistake attachment for weakness.